The 2012/13 season may have ended but that only means awards season has begun. With the help of the tactics gurus at Spielverlagerung, the Bundesliga Fanatic staff has narrowed down its list of the league’s best performers this season. Part I of our list includes one of German football’s up and coming young goalkeepers, a Spanish star in the making, the “next Kagawa”, one of the league’s biggest surprise performers and one of the best playmakers in the game.
25. Kevin Trapp – Eintracht Frankfurt
Eintracht have been the Bundesliga’s biggest surprise package this season after their promotion last season and they finished in 6th position despite having a very small squad. A huge part of their success lies on Kevin Trapp, signed in the summer from 1.FC Kaiserslautern for what now seems like a measly 1.5m€.
Trapp conceded an average of 1.42 goals per game in 26 league games and, with the centre-back pairing of Bamba Anderson and Carlos Zambrano in front of him, that’s no short of a miracle. Bastian Oczipka and Sebastian Jung as full-backs had a more attacking role than a defending one, so all of this put together allows for one to understand how good Trapp has been this season. His outstanding saves, both from point-blank range and long range, have translated into points for Eintracht and his performances have been so good that he’s been rated by kicker as the second best player in the Bundesliga in terms of average rating, behind Franck Ribéry.
Trapp’s season was ended by a hand injury in mid-March, caused in the strangest of ways: by taking part in a publicity shoot with the German U21 team. Due to that misfortune, Eintracht were awarded 500.000€ in compensation but it was no consolation as his injury was deemed a disaster for the team due to his importance in the team. Without him, Eintracht slipped from 4th to 6th despite Eintracht reserve goalkeeper Oka Nikolov putting in decent performances, but he was no Trapp and those miraculous saves were effectively the difference.
24. Daniel Carvajal – Bayer Leverkusen
His arrival from Real Madrid in the summer for 6m€ was a bit of a gamble as Carvajal had never played top-flight football before, having only played for Real Madrid’s B-team in the Spanish third division. Still, he came highly recommended and Leverkusen gave him a five-year contract. In order to summarise his season, there’s no better way than doing so than by stating that he is likely to return to Real Madrid this summer, after the Spanish club are keen to trigger the 8m€ buy-back clause that they included in his contract. And now, there are no doubts, as Carvajal will finally ease all the trouble that the blancos have had at right-back this season and could very well be their starting right-back next season.
The Spanish U21 player adapted quickly to the German style of play and after just the first match of the season on the bench, he became a fix part of Hyypia and Lewandowski’s line-ups. His defensive play has been overshadowed by his attacking prowess, collecting 8 Bundesliga assists (10th highest in the league) and a goal against Hoffenheim. His likely loss, as Madrid president Florentino Pérez openly stated that he is almost certain to return, will be a big hit to Leverkusen as not only are they losing one of their best defenders but also one of their best attackers, so much so that Bild nominated him as the right-back in their Elf des Jahres.
23. Hiroshi Kiyotake – 1.FC Nürnberg
Hiroshi Kiyotake surprised everyone this season. The 23 year old Japanese international made his Bundesliga debut after moving from Cerezo Ozaka to Der Club. Kiyotake single-handedly conducted his club’s attack (he created 1/3 of 1.FCN’s scoring chances). With Kiyotake’s technical brilliance and attacking intuition, he’s threat whenever he receives the ball.
Kiyotake was a revelation for 1.FCN: he led the team with 10 assists, while contributing 4 memorable goals (especially two stunning scores and two assists in his man of the match performance against Hoffenheim in November). He was second on the team with 35 passes a game (completing 81%), most of which were key passes linking the midfield to the attack, or crossing the ball into the box. Indeed, Kiyotake was essentially Nürnberg’s only provider of key passes each game (2.7), which put considerable pressure on the attacking midfielder. Nonetheless, Kiyotake thrived in this role all season, as he became one of the Bundesliga’s most feared attackers from the right side.
If he stays put during the summer, next season will be crucial for Kiyotake at 1.FCN, as he looks to build on a very successful debut season, and prove that his ability to create excitement is not a fluke. At this point, it looks like the safe bet is that he’s the Bundesliga’s next Shingi Kawaga and moves to a bigger club soon. Meanwhile, enjoy him while you can at Der Club.
22. Kevin Volland – TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
We’ve already known that Volland is a top prospect in Germany, given his performances on the national youth sides (U-17, U-18, U-19, U-21) and his performance as a dangerous attacker in a stint with TSV 1860 Munich (20 goals in 57 apps). However, few were prepared for Volland’s emergence as, arguably, Hoffenheim’s top player. Indeed, it wasn’t even clear that the young forward would find space in the starting XI with the off-season signing of Eren Derdiyok. However, Volland impressed early enough to earn a stable place in the starting XI.
Volland led Hoffeheim with 12 assists and was second on the team with 6 goals. He also led his team in key passes per game and scoring chances created. Perhaps his finest performance this season was a 2 goal effort in a win against Freiburg, a defensive rock to crack. In that match, Volland was a terror, as he attacked from the left side and through the middle. He’s particularly dangerous from these areas, especially when he angles in or cuts toward the box. He’s a very crafty runner, which leads him to pick up fouls. You can only wonder how much better his scoring numbers would’ve been this season on a squad with more stability.
Volland is a classic upside pick: he’s a young player with a seemingly high ceiling. He needs to improve on his ball holding skills and passing decisions, but right now he compensates for these weaknesses with his ability to create scoring chances. A summer move to greener pastures – or a call up someday from Jogi Löw – would not be surprising for this youngster.
21. Diego – VfL Wolfsburg
Diego Ribas da Cunha is simply known as Diego. A Brazilian international of Italian ancestry, 28 years old, he scored 10 goals for Wolfsburg this season, adding five assists. His passes found their mark 82% of the time, a strong number for a midfielder, and despite not being known as a defensive talent, he won 52% of his challenges. He has won league titles in Brazil (Santos) and Portugal (Porto), been a Europa League champions (Atletico Madrid) and brought Werder Bremen its most recent trophy, the DFB Pokal, in the 2008/2009 season.
Diego has been a recipient of current record transfer payments from Werder Bremen and Wolfsburg. The Brazilian was courted by Italian giants Juventus in 2009, who paid a transfer fee of €24.5 million and signed the playmaker to a five year contract. But in little more than a year, he was gone, a bad fit with The Old Lady. He was demoted to the Wolfsburg reserves in training this season, unwanted by any other club (at least for the price Wolfsburg demanded). But following the firing of his nemesis, Wolfsburg Coach Felix Magath, Diego bounced back to lead the Wolves in goal-scoring this season, and was the attacking spark for the club, creating 158 scoring chances for the club.
Both blessed and cursed, Diego had a top 25 season. Still young enough to have an outstanding career, it’s hoped that the tempermental midfielder has matured sufficiently to find stability and more championships in his future. Before departing the Volkwagen City at the end of the season, Diego and his agent spoke of a return to Atletico Madrid. The drama never ceases.
Latest posts by Bundesliga Fanatic Staff (see all)
- Bundesliga Fanatic Transfer Ticker – Summer 2018 Edition - August 6, 2018
- Two Great Football Reads for Kiddos—Just in Time for the World Cup - June 14, 2018
- Best Bets for the Remainder of the German Football Season - April 19, 2018